BUDGET HISTORY: Editorial: Quelle surprise

Tuition is on the rise, again, and I for one am angry. Fees are going up 9.7 per cent next year, which is the maximum allowed under the provincial government’s tuition policy, and student leaders are saying it’s not a total loss-they have a promise from the Board of Governors that the university President will talk to them about rising tuition. Any sign is a good sign, they say. How mystical. Heck, next year they might raise tuition only 9.2 per cent.

One BoG member said they can’t continue to raise tuition the maximum amount. Quelle surprise. (See what a benefit my classical education has been? I can be sarcastic in bastardized French. Better not tell the government that.) Did she look at the Food Bank statistics and realize that students are suffering? Or was she trying to pacify the student population by taking a magnanimous approach to lowering tuition?

Well, I’m not pacified by bureaucratic promises. As tuition continues to rise all I feel is frustration at a system that takes advantage of laws created for big business. A system that says the only way to deal with government cutbacks is to make students pay more all the time. What students can’t pay, the university can make up for in corporate sponsorship. Instead of taxing the money-grubbing-capitalist core–oh-my-god-don’t-tax-them-they-might-leave-Alberta–we’ll let them sponsor job-oriented programs to develop model future employees.

Further increases in the tuition cap won’t be announced until Klein is safely ensconced in his Ivory Tower of personal power and petty privilege once again. And Klein won’t lose-that would take a miracle, in the form of a candidate with more doublespeak and big business support than Klein has. As if.

I predict that suddenly, after the provincial election, Alberta will have another economic “crisis.” Our oil-rich, resource-laden province will need to reduce its debt and increase the surplus (surplus?) with no regard for the future. Only this time education cutbacks will amputate the province’s medical, nursing, and teaching schools. In Alberta, province of the charmed, we don’t need doctors, nurses and teachers; they only teach people to expect more than they can pay for-like adequate health care for the poor. How unreasonable. If students want to learn something not taught on the dusty sidewalk of life, they may as well pay for it.

Student loans are set at $8900 per student per academic year. This is not unreasonable, if you saved enough money from a summer job and can find part-time work pumping gas during the school year. It’s also not unreasonable if you don’t mind living below the poverty line. It is unreasonable if you can’t find a job for any reason whatever.

The unemployment level for 18-25 year olds unacceptably high, yet the government is encouraging greater youth unemployment by discouraging advanced education. Cheap, ignorant labour. How amusing.

There are students at the U of C who can’t afford to eat or pay rent without assistance from the Food Bank or emergency student loans. There are students who sleep in Mac Hall, shower in Phys. Ed., and then go to class, eating what they can scrounge along the way. Perhaps this only happens to a few people only occasionally-but that it happens at all is truly a crisis in our time. A time when Alberta is becoming a world economic power, yet student rights are violated as surely as other basic rights are violated all over the world. Not rights to freedom of thought and expression–although corporate sponsorship is always on the rise here–but rights to a minimum standard of living that involves meals and shelter and self respect. Not scrounging for the bare necessities of physical life while trying to stimulate mental life. Truly this is a capitalist’s world.

Lisa Skierka

News Editor